I recently penned a short story titled “Confirmed Kill” for No Quarter magazine #72. For those of you who don’t know about NQ, it’s the in-house magazine for Privateer Press and covers all things WARMACHINE and HORDES, including the occasional bit of fiction. The story centers around two characters, a Trencher Express Team comprised of trollkin sniper Corporal Horgrum and his partner and spotter Sergeant Sharp. Both characters appear in the Acts if War series. I introduced them in Acts of War: Flashpoint, and they have a slightly larger roll in Acts of War: Aftershock.
Anyway, Lyle Lowery, the editor-in-chief of No Quarter magazine has granted me permission to post a short excerpt from “Confirmed Kill,” so, without further ado, here it is.
Northern Thornwood, 606 AR
“Take them and go!” Horgrum’s father shouted, pointing his axe at the tree line. Vargal Oakheart was an aging trollkin, but still mighty, and his voice boomed over the din of gunshots and battle cries.
Horgrum shook his head. “No, I will fight.” He had his own axe in hand, but its blade was clean and dry, unlike his father’s, which was stained red with the blood of the invaders.
Vargal glanced behind him, where their village burned, where humans in crimson armor slaughtered their people. He turned back to Horgrum and put a heavy hand on his son’s shoulder. “We are lost, Horgrum,” he said, his voice thick with sorrow. “Take your brother and sister and flee.” Solissa was thirteen and Kolor was only ten, too small and too young to fight. They hunkered behind their older brother, wincing at each booming report of an enemy rifle.
“And go where?” Horgrum demanded. He was twenty years old and a seasoned fighter, and the thought of leaving his village and kriel sickened him.
“South, to Cygnar,” Vargal said. “You will be safe there.”
Horgrum opened his mouth to challenge his father, but the sound of hooves cut short his protest. A human in red armor astride a great black horse emerged from the smoke and flame.
“Go!” Vargal shouted and shoved Horgrum backward. He took his axe in both hands and turned to face the enemy.
Horgrum pushed Solissa toward the trees, and she took Kolor’s hand. They ran.
Before he entered the woods, Horgrum turned back to see the human warrior barreling down on his father, lowering his lance. Vargal twisted away from the weapon, lashing out with his axe at the passing horse. The great blade hewed through one of the animal’s legs, and it crashed to the ground, throwing its rider. Horgrum smiled as his father closed on the enemy and split the human’s skull with a short overhand strike, cutting through steel and bone.
Horgrum’s grip tightened around his own axe. These humans, these Khadorans, were not so strong. The kin could defeat them. He took a step toward the clearing.
“No, Horgrum.” Solissa’s hand on his arm stropped him.
Vargal had pulled his weapon free from the corpse and turned back toward the battle. Through the smoke Horgrum could see more trollkin and humans fighting. He could help his people. He could defend them.
He took another step, and a single sharp report rang out. His father stopped midstride, and blood poured down his back from a fist-sized hole that had blossomed between his broad shoulders. He collapsed to his knees, and then pitched over into the dirt.
Horgrum shook off Solissa’s hand and raced toward his father, screaming in rage. He made it five paces before another shot rang out. The bullet struck his axe, smashing it from his grip. He dove to the ground. Bodies lay everywhere, human and trollkin. His hand fell across the butt of a rifle as something huge loomed out of the smoke, a human warrior encased in steam-powered armor that made him nearly as large and powerful as a full-blooded troll.
Horgrum picked up the rifle. It was big by human standards, long-barreled and finely machined. He had never used such a weapon, but he’d seen them fired. He rested the butt against his shoulder and curled his smallest finger around the trigger; the others would not fit inside the guard. The armored man charged, and Horgrum stared down the rifle’s barrel. A sense of calm flowed over him, his rage and fear drained away, and only the enemy and the rifle remained. He drew in a breath and aimed as best he could, peering through the attached scope and adjusting until he felt centered over the enemy’s heart. He pulled the trigger, and the gun bucked against his shoulder and spat smoke.
The armored human stumbled, and Horgrum was unsure if his shot was the cause, or if he’d even hit his target. Then the man faltered again, blood sluiced down his helmet from the visor slit, and he fell over backward. Horgrum had not hit the spot he’d intended, but Dhunia had graced him with a bit of luck.
Horgrum had no time to celebrate. Another shot rang out and dizzying pain lanced through his right shoulder. Another soldier appeared. This one wore no armor, but he carried a rifle like the one Horgrum had taken from the enemy corpse. He was an older man, with greying hair falling from beneath a red cap. His face was hard and angular, and a livid scar ran from his right brow to the middle of his nose. This was the human who had killed his father.
Despite his wound, he wanted only to find a way to kill this man, but Solissa’s voice from the tree line called him back to reality. “Horgrum, more soldiers are coming!”
He broke into a stumbling run toward his sister, expecting the human to shoot him in the back. No shot came, and he made it to the trees, the enemy rifle gripped tightly in his right hand.
If you liked this little excerpt from “Confirmed Kill,” head on over to the Privateer Press online store and pick up No Quarter #72 for the rest of the story. There will be more Horgrum and Sharp in my upcoming novel Acts of War: Aftershock releasing July 12th.